THE SEASON OF PHILOSOPHY
“What gives more satisfaction to one’s being
than to have expressed oneself. One builds
a house and expresses himself, another writes
a poem and expresses himself, another begets
a large family and expresses himself–and looking
back, they can say ‘Vixi’: ‘I have lived.’”
When we are young there are many who hear; though as we age there seem fewer to listen. There is something about the ripeness of youth that draws the attention of life; like full and lustrous cherries hanging heavy on the rich bough of a cherry tree, ripe and inviting, drawing what is living close with the promise of energy, vitality and the nourishment of what is new. And this is good, as the young have very important things to say... They tell us about what is now, and what is next, and they offer promise to carry on after us once we are too weak to stand and walk on our own. The young are the vital link between ourselves and a future we will never know. And so, we listen to what they say, and we watch what they do, and we celebrate what they are and promise to someday become. This is a good thing. It is good for our species to look forward.
But the old have words as well...and sometimes even something to say, and their own time to speak, though their language may be less attractive than the ripe words of youth. For the old speak like acorns dropped from an ancient gnarled oak tree, peppering the ground below our feet among the autumn leaves. It is easy for such words to become missed, like a cool autumn wind passing by our ears, or an acorn covered up by a cloud of tumbling leaves. We are too distracted by our desire to get to and remain in the sunlight. Let us get out from under this old tree's great shade. Let's go out to the meadow there in the sun–as though the summer has just passed, it's a fine day nonetheless–and though we may not find cherries out there in the meadow, we'll at least be under the sun.
So, though we may have something to say in our old age, we'd better speak up while we are young and there is anyone yet who cares to listen. And though it is true our young words might be folly; it is good practice to voice opinion and hear response while others are still curious about what we might wish to say. And if we keep it up, we might then arrive still sooner at a place where our words resound with some real experience and meaning, and those who did previously listen might still linger to hear our more, and our better, and our words which drop like shaken acorns from a tree blown hard by the coming winter winds. Words which might be tangy or acid to taste–nothing like the sweet cherries of youth–yet which perhaps might nourish if gathered, stored, and prepared with care. These are the words of a well-lived life. A life which perhaps began speaking with the interesting promise and folly of youth and finished with something more permanent and sound to last through the night.
This is the Season of Philosophy... A time of life to speak what we have beheld as true. Before we pass forever to the oblivion which is seemingly also something true.
Softypapa's last video
I was so tempted yesterday to title my latest YouTube upload Softypapa's last video. This is due to the simple fact that after completing the video (which is just another in The Good Life meditation series) I feel I can die quite satisfied that my "work here is done." Of course, I don't think any of us have any particular "work" we need to do during life—besides staying alive and making and raising babies—though many of us enjoy imagining for ourselves some mission or objective we'd like to fulfill or achieve before it's lights out for good. To this end, yesterday's video–along with the companion book Going Alone—would seem to fulfill this personal sense of mission for me. I feel like my work here is indeed done, though I have a desire and a strong will to remain around for as long as this body holds out—hopefully, another few decades. But if not...if I'm gone today—which isn't unreasonable given I am now just a few months older than my father was when he passed—then I'll go gladly to the dark with the full, broad smile of a man well-satisfied with a productive "day" of work.
Though I'm ready to take my boots off and relax 'till the end... I won't.
Best by date
I think our expiration date is roughly our fiftieth birthday. What I mean, is that if we have not yet observed and said anything original by this age, then we probably never will. So, I’ll make good use of the decades of the twenties, and the thirties; in order to have something to say in my forties, before the light and grace of youth, energy and inspiration begin to fade ahead of death; as youth and early adulthood are the time for experience, and mistake, and adventure, by which we gain the courage and insight to speak something new. So, live it while we're young. And say it while we still can.
The season of philosophy
“But it is yet more dreadful to consider that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change, that understanding may make its appearance and depart, that it may blaze and expire.”
As a young man, my ideas resembled the ideas of others, and my writing was an imperfect transcription of what I'd learned. My time then was better spent putting these ideas into practice; like an athlete rehearsing the instruction of their coach, making the teaching their own through the training of body and mind in order to gain the necessary strength, resilience, tone, and muscle memory to engage the world with wise instinct—the lesson of the teacher having then become the natural practice of the one who has been taught.
We each possess a bottle
And some paper
And a pencil stub;
And a strong arm
For hurling into the sea
And so, with time, the practiced lessons of youth become the mature character of the aged; taking on some qualities of self and the hue and tint of the life we have lived; the things we learned when we were young then becoming our own through the course of living. We gain in this way, not only our own way of being, but something perhaps to say... Something to share about life. Something which is not just the copied idea of another—a reflection and imperfect transcript of what we'd heard—but our own distillation of learned and lived principles which have become our own.
As an older man, my ideas now resemble the life which I have lived. And my writing is an imperfect transcript of principles collected and refined and distilled and made rare through deliberate life, and deliberate thought, and the deliberate wish to improve—these things becoming my own, by way of possession and use, and the very fact of deliberate days on end, and perhaps soon to be ending.
And so, I'll scratch some words on this bit of paper. And toss them within a bottle into the sea. My own words... My own deliberated impression of life, to float away upon the sea.
Notes from my muse
One week from tonight I’ll be arriving back in Siberia. It seems I was there just days ago. I wonder if the muse will meet me out there again like last year? If so, I wonder what she’ll have to say.
I'm finding it's easier to capture the emptiness which seemingly pervades the universe with words rather than images. I can talk about nothing, though I can't very easily draw it.
I left a copy of Going Alone at Siberia, which seemed good, as the book was written here.
I’m bringing a sketchbook to the desert this year. Though I don’t know that what isn’t out there can be captured that way.
Completed the hard part of another chapter. Was attacked my moths and other flying bugs. And I heard something walking behind me in the dark. The writing is so easy here.
I have yet to fry the fish I brought back from my last visit to Siberia. From the time with the chair under the bridge. It’s good that the fish don’t stink. Maybe there something worthwhile to be found?
There’s a chair now which I’ve left in Siberia. Under a bridge. Within a dry river. Safe from the summertime inferno. Shady - not cool. It’s a place for philosophy. My wilderness den.
There’s good reason to come alone to the desert in summer. No other season here will do.
Lunch is done. I’m amused my muse came out to meet me. It’s the first time she’s ever done so, so far from her desert home. She sat with me here at Chipotle. Like someone close meeting a friend at the airport. Mostly she was quiet though - mentioning only a few words about the cold. I won’t expect her at Siberia. I’m ready for a long night utterly alone. There’ll be no moon tonight. The ghost town will be utterly dark. Too dark to see ghosts, or muse. just darkness and the wind. As far as I know I may never see her again. And that’s fine. As our work is already done.
I’ve arrived back at Siberia. The wind’s blowing. Pretty hard. It’s that same wind that got me last time. And a new moon tonight. It’s gonna be dark and blustery - good conditions for a night hike. First to set up camp and have some dinner. No sign of the muse yet. Maybe she’s under the bridge. I’ll go check later.
My desert camp is set up with maybe thirty minutes of sunlight left. Now it’s time to pop over to the writing bridge to see if I can locate the muse.
Already at work before breakfast. The climate today here is perfect. The first week of November is a very good season for writing in the desert.
It’s time to go to work under the bridge. But first, I’ll leave a note on the bike so the railroad police won’t send a helicopter to look for me like that one time. Fortunately, I arrived back then just in time to stop the search before the chopper lifted off, but not in time to prevent them sending police to my home to talk to my wife. These notes seem to do the trick and were suggested to me by the railroad police. Swell fellas, by the way.
Each chapter of the new book gets its title written in chalk in the wooden rafters below the Route 66 bridge at Siberia. The chalk seems to be holding up well after half a year, though like all of us I expect it’ll be dust before long.
I’ve completed two new chapters in the last three months and their titles are now under the bridge. I hope I spelled “principle” right.